There’s an awful lot of nice-looking content out there which says precisely nothing. Designers have been briefed. There have been meetings, stuff has been signed off, stamped and approved and now it’s out there being ignored.

Getting infographics to work for you hinges on getting the brief right. If there’s nothing to say that’s new or novel or interesting then infographics won’t do it for you. It’s not a design aesthetic or a typeface. It’s a way of speeding up information intake.

We compete for the attention of our audience. We can amuse, engage and press emotional buttons. Success is measured by the number of seconds attention span we receive.

Until the advent of the World Wide Web all marketing communication was one-way. We’d design an ad, put it out there and hope that we get a nod of recognition.

Now we can tell whether a mouse is hovering over a banner, how long someone has been reading our message and whether we’ve met them before.

Interactive infographics allows users to test the product, understand the idea that underpins it and perhaps start a conversation. Provided we have something that’s new, controversial or interesting to say we can use Flash or HTML5 to take it to the next level.

Here’s the brief. We’re a chain of office supply superstores. We sell everything from file cabinets to phone deodorizers. We’ve got a whole load of new e-readers from various manufacturers. We want to get people thinking about e-readers and to show them, in a clear and simple demonstration what they’ll get from one. It would be great too if we came up with something that people will share with their friends and perhaps talk about.

Here’s the result. [Click to launch]

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

I’d say it scores on all counts. It shows me the product, it allows me to try it and it tells me something surprising about myself that I didn’t know. I immediately want to show my friends and see how they do. Infographics are a great way of communicating ideas of scale. In this next example we’re given an insight into the life of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Is there any way we can compare our lifestyle with his?  As it happens, there is.

[Click to launch]

Click image to open interactive version (via Jackpot Party).

Roman wears a Rolex Daytona. Great watch. At nearly twenty grand it had better be. If we were to use the same proportion of our income to buy something what would we get for our money? A bread roll. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

And that’s the point of interactive infographics.  An infographic is there to communicate quickly and make people think. If there’s nothing to think about people will look away in less than a second. If there’s nothing to think about it ain’t an infographic. It’s a piece of pretty design.